June 16th was my mother’s birthday. She was born in 1912 and would now be 108 years old. Affectionally known to her grandchildren as “Granny”, she lived with us her last 4 years, dying in 1996…24 years ago.
Mary Elizabeth Dempsey Touhill did not have an easy life. She was 10 years old when her younger sister Jane died in a tragic fire at the age of 3. She mentioned that her mother was never the same after that. Mary’s first born daughter, my older sister, was named Elizabeth Jane (after her sister). Her father Thomas Dempsey had immigrated from Ireland when he was 12 years old. Her mother’s family (Gardner Jones) went back to the Revolutionary war era in the Boston area.
There’s so much to say about my mother, but I’ll leave most of it for another time. My mother and father were married March 23, 1935 at St. Louis University by Fr. Francis O’Hearn, SJ. They had four children.
My mother “stayed in the fight”. She had many trials that almost knocked her out, but she kept getting up. She suddenly became a widow at 43 years of age after 21 years of marriage. She lived 40 year as a widow. Like all single parents, she had to fill the role of both father and mother… really an impossible task. How do you combine the firmness and strong hand and financial provision of the father with the compassion and heart of the mother? You really can’t, but she tried.
I can say that she was beloved by her children and especially her grandchildren. She had a kindness that developed out of many years of suffering.
As I pray for her, I often think of her being in heaven where she is finally experiencing the peace and joy and love that she always longed for. I picture her finally without any worries and no sorrow and a beautiful smile on her face. I thank God for my mother and all the many kindnesses and love she showed me over the years.
So, Happy 108th birthday mother. Please remember to pray for all of us. We look forward to being together with you again one day.